Papers presented to the University of Oxford Seminar on Education in Brazil, 2003. Education in Brazil has changed intensely in the last several years. Access to basic education is nearly universal, secondary education has been expanding very rapidly, and also higher education, at the undergraduate and graduate levels. However, there are serious problems related to quality, equity, and inappropriate use of resources. Some of these problems are related to the fact that Brazil started to develop its education institutions very late, and did not build strong teaching and academic professions that could provide the necessary support for education policies committed to equity, quality and efficiency. After a historical overview, the paper presents some of the main policy innovations of the last several years, and some of the items in the policy agenda of the new Brazilian government.